Illinois' Bowhunting Outlook

Illinois' Bowhunting Outlook

Every year we provide you with a rating system on how every county in our state scores when it comes to bowhunting for deer. Here's the update based on last season.

By Daniel D. Lamoreux

The popularity of bowhunting in Illinois has become quite evident, because nearly one-third of all deer taken here are now killed with archery gear. Bowhunters put 47,858 deer in the freezer last season, and the potential exists for that number to reach 50,000 this year.

About 44 percent of all deer taken are does. Of the bucks tagged, about 81 percent are 2 1/2 years of age or less. Only 3 percent of all venison has aged to 4 1/2 years or more.

In order to better address the needs of our readership, we have adjusted the rating system to give weight to the two most important factors in Illinois - access and general harvest potential. Counties were awarded one point for each of the following standards that they could satisfy:

  • The overall archery harvest in 2002-03 for the state increased by 11.56 percent from the previous year. The individual county must have experienced an increase of this percentage or more.
  • The county must have shown some increase in harvest for each of the last three years.
  • The county's harvest total for 2002-03 must have been above the seven-year average for that county.
  • There must be access to public ground.
  • Access to public ground exceeds 10,000 acres.
  • Access to public ground exceeds 20,000 acres.
  • Access is available within that county to the Shawnee National Forest.
  • And hunting opportunities are made available for disabled hunters.

The highest possible score is 8.

ADAMS - 5
Consistently rising harvests since 1997. Last year was all-time high of 749 deer. 12,000 acres of access. Disabled-hunter opportunities. Good history of trophies.

ALEXANDER - 4
Consistent area. Hunters took 165 last season. Seven-year average is 152. Public access to 4,100 acres.

Photo by John R. Ford

BOND - 2
Roller-coaster success, with gains every other year. Averages 292 deer annually. No public access.

BOONE - 0
The seven-year-average harvest is 209, but neither of the last two seasons made that mark. No public access.

BROWN - 3
Incredible season in 2002-03, when 733 deer were tagged. The prior six-year average was 494. A fluke?

BUREAU - 4
Steady harvest increases since 1998 to a high of 582 last season. Seven-year average of 434. Public access.

CALHOUN - 4
Substantial increases since 1995, with one minor down year in 1999. A total of 852 deer taken last season, and that's 21 percent over the previous year. Access to 8,800 acres.

CARROLL - 3
Best year was 1999 - last two seasons close but no cigar. Expect about 345 deer this year. Generous public land access, a healthy portion requiring a boat.

CASS - 6
One of three scoring this high. Steady increases in harvest since 1995, with public access available on over 25,000 acres. Historically good to trophy hunters. Offers opportunities for disabled hunters.

CHAMPAIGN - 2
Best year was 1995 (334 deer), with steady declines until 1999 (161). Starting to rebound but a long way to go. Last season saw 229 tags filled.

CHRISTIAN - 3
Increasingly successful seasons since 1996, with the exception of a blip last year. Expect around 350 in the freezer this year. Access to about 1,200 acres. Opportunities for disabled hunters.

CLARK - 2
Last season best in last seven, at 409, but harvest has not been consistent. Averages 337 deer annually. No public access.

CLAY - 3
With exception of a dip in the 1998 season, has experienced slow but steady increases in harvest for seven years. Last season gave up 483 deer. No public access.

CLINTON - 4
Experienced increasing harvests every year, rising from 203 in 1995 to 398 last season. Some public ground.

COLES - 4
Dramatic spike in harvest success last season, when 506 deer tagged compared to 375 previous year. Has shown steady, but minor, increases in prior seasons. Some public access.

COOK - 2
Average annual harvest of 138 over last seven years, with variation of 20 in either direction. Some public access.

CRAWFORD - 3
Took 562 last season, while prior average was 430. Whether the beginning of new trend or just exceptional year remains to be seen. Access on 1,100 acres.

CUMBERLAND - 2
Exceptional season in 2001-02. Jumped to 248 kills, while seven-year average is 175. No access.

DE KALB - 2

Best year was 1997, with 292 filled tags, but hasn't returned to that level. Average is 266. Some public access.

DE WITT - 3

Experienced major harvest declines from 1996 (303) through 1999 (163) but showing improvement again. Last season reached 201. Nearly 3,000 acres of public access.

DOUGLAS - 2

Slight declines in harvest since 1999, with seven-year average of 100 deer taken. Some public access.

DU PAGE - 0

Major harvest declines in late 1990s, with only minor recovery. Seven-year average of 106.

EDGAR - 1

Harvest chart is up and down, with annual average of 266 deer.

EDWARDS - 3

Last two seasons most successful (196, 228), but harvest is not consistent. Averages 171 deer annually over seven-year period.

EFFINGHAM - 4

Solid and steady increases over seven-year period, starting at 200 deer in 1995 and climbing to 359 last season. Access on 540 acres.

FAYETTE - 4

Was on a roll but hit a bump in

2000 season. 2001-02 year was best in seven, at 573 deer. Annual average is 477. Access to over 10,000 acres.

FORD - 3

No powerhouse but dependable for the few who hunt here. Seven-year average of 44 deer annually, with 2001-02 season out of character at 71.

FRANKLIN - 3

Harvest success historically up and down by as much as 30 percent. Last season represented a high of 709 deer tagged. Access on 1,800 acres.

FULTON - 4

Substantial increases in harvest over seven years have nearly doubled harvest to a record 1,014 deer bagged last season. About 5,500 public acres.

GALLATIN - 2

No public access and inconsistent results. Harvest was down last year by 6 percent from previous year, with a total take of 200.

GREENE - 2

The pattern here is reasonable, with harvest increases every other year. The 2001-02 season best at 592. No access available.

GRUNDY - 1

Best season was 1996 (419), but average has fallen to 328 since. Both of last two years slightly below that. About 4,400 acres of public land.

HAMILTON - 5

Steady increases from 1995 (191) through last season (373). Has public access available on 7,200 acres, opportunities for disabled hunters and fair history of big bucks.

HANCOCK - 2

Excellent harvest record, climbing from 238 to 499 in seven years, but unless you own land, or know someone who does, there is no access.

HARDIN - 3

Harvest increased by 36 percent over seven years, though not consistently. Last season's total was 351 deer. Access through the Shawnee NF.

HENDERSON - 3

Situation similar to Hardin, with inconsistent increases, growing nonetheless. Expect to tag roughly 200 deer this year. About 8,100 acres of public land.

HENRY - 5

Harvest increasing by 10 to 14 percent annually over last seven seasons, with 418 deer being the top. Limited public access but offers opportunity for the disabled.

IROQUOIS - 3

Declining harvests from 1995 through 1998, with recovery apparently under way. Last season saw 364 deer taken, a 25 percent increase over previous year. About 2,500 acres of access.

JACKSON - 6

Harvest dipped in 1998, with strong recovery since. Average seven-year harvest of 573 deer annually. Opportunities for disabled. Access on 11,000 acres, plus the Shawnee NF.

JASPER - 5

Strong increases in success since 1998, with 491 taken last year. Over 7,000 acres of access, plus disabled-hunter opportunities.

JEFFERSON - 4

Harvest last season (1,058) nearly double that of 1998 (538). 10,000 acres of public access.

JERSEY - 5

Harvest has increased 103 percent since 1995 in a reasonable, steady manner to almost 500 deer. Nearly 13,000 acres of access.

JO DAVIESS - 3

Top year was 1999 (538), but last three have been 30 to 50 deer below that. Access on 10,000 acres.

JOHNSON - 3

Best year was 1995 (591), but average since has been 476. Opportunity on 11,000 acres, plus Shawnee.

KANE - 0

Good average (454) but swings up and down by about 40 deer annually. No access.

KANKAKEE - 3

Half the average of Kane (213) but public access on 2,000 acres and opportunities for disabled hunters.

KENDALL - 2

Good improvement from 1995 to '98, stable since. Expect about 150 deer killed.

KNOX - 3

Increasing harvest since 1998 to 625 tagged last season. Access on 2,500 acres.

LAKE - 1

Seven-year average of 553, down 9 percent from highs in 1995-96. Access on 2,500 acres.

LA SALLE - 3

Harvested 1,017 deer last season, a 7 percent increase over previous year. Access on 2,302 acres.

LAWRENCE - 3

Access to 1,000 acres, and a seven-year average of 361 deer, a bit better the last two seasons.

LEE - 3

Showing improvement from slump in 1996-98. Averages 382 deer, with 2,600 acres of access.

LIVINGSTON - 3

Stable in mid-90s, with marked increases since. Bagged 251 last year, but no access.

LOGAN - 3

1998 and 1999 were down years in an otherwise stable area. Averages 193 deer annually.

MACON - 1

Inconsistent success, with best years being 1995 and 1998. Averages 257 deer over seven years. No public access.

MACOUPIN - 3

Last season was best, at 752 tagged, but historically a roller coaster of harvest numbers. Averages 633 deer, with minimal public access.

MADISON - 3

Substantial harvest increase to 781 from 1995 level of 459 but not in steady increments. Expect similar to last season.

MARION - 3

Similar graph to that seen for Madison. Roughly 900 deer expected this year. No access.

MARSHALL - 5

Steady increases from 1997 level (133) to last season's 268. Access available on 4,257 acres, plus disabled-hunter opportunities.

MASON - 4

Increasing success over last three years, stable in previous years. Tagged 497 last fall. Almost 7,300 public acres available.

MASSAC - 6

Harvest increased by 21 percent each of last two years to high of 404. Over 3,000 acres of access plus Shawnee NF and opportunities for disabled.

McDONOUGH - 2

Tagged 321 last season, down from previous year (328) but still above seven-year average (255).

McHENRY - 0

Last season's harvest of 620 was lowest in seven years. Average over that period is 672. No access.

McLEAN - 2

Inconsistent success. Averaged annual harvest of 427 over seven-year period.

MENARD - 4

Last season saw 345 deer bagged, an 87 percent increase in steady increments over last seven-year period.

MERCER - 3

Excellent increases in harvest since 1996 to 261 deer last season but only 2,800 acres for public access.

MONROE - 3

Harvest more than doubled in seven years from 108 to 266 but no public access.

MONTGOMERY - 3

Last season experienced 21 percent increase in harvest over previous year but coming off slump in 1999. Average annual kill of 412 deer. About 1,600 public acres.

MORGAN - 2

Minor harvest increases since 1997, with last year marking 527. No access.

MOULTRIE - 3

Averaged 128 deer annually over seven-year period. About 6,400 acres available to the public.

OGLE - 2

Best year was 1999 (658), but average has been 589. Access to 2,800 acres.

PEORIA - 5

Solidly increasing success over last four years, with high bag of 864 deer last season. Access to 4,290 acres and opportunities for disabled hunters.

PERRY - 4

Last season was best, with 594 tagged - a 22 percent increase over previous year. Nearly 5,500 acres available to public.

PIATT - 0

Peak harvest was in 1998 (177) but falling steadily since to 97 last year.

PIKE - 5

Our top-producing county has gained steadily from a harvest of 1,252 in 1995 to 2,475 last year. Over 17,000 acres of public land along the Mississippi River.

POPE - 4

Reasonably stable harvest average of 675, with last three years a bit better. Access via Shawnee NF and opportunities for disabled.

PULASKI - 0

Average annual kill of 312, but actual numbers slide either side of that without consistency. No access.

PUTNAM - 2

Last year was best year, with 155 tagged, but history is too inconsistent to establish trend. No access.

RANDOLPH - 4

Harvest of last two seasons (628, 620) well above average of 562. Access to over 18,000 acres and disabled-hunter opportunities.

RICHLAND - 1

Unstable results. Last season (382) was 10 percent below previous two years.

ROCK ISLAND - 2

Harvest rates have dropped slightly in each of last two years from high in 1999. Still averages over 300 deer annually.

SALINE - 4

Average of 312 deer annually over last seven years, 900 acres public land plus Shawnee NF and opportunities for disabled hunters.

SANGAMON - 3

Last season was best ever (681), but average over seven years is 483.

SCHUYLER - 3

Last year's harvest of 500 was best in three years of increases after 1998 slump. Disabled-hunter opportunities.

SCOTT - 2

Seven-year average of 173, but last season at 218. No access.

SHELBY - 5

Good numbers last season (576) and strong average of 455 for analysis period. Plenty of access at 10,900 acres and disabled-hunter opportunities.

STARK - 1

Harvest in last two seasons (126, 152) less than a third of that experienced in 1997-99 (421, 443, 481).

ST. CLAIR - 4

Harvest in 1996 was 402, in 1998 it was 90 and last year reached 604. You figure it out!

STEPHENSON - 2

Harvest numbers up, then down and over again. Averages 353. No access.

TAZEWELL - 2

Another roller coaster, with an average of 475. Access to 3,000 acres.

UNION - 3

Reasonably stable harvest averaging 511 annually. Over 8,000 acres public ground plus Shawnee NF.

VERMILION - 3

Last three years showing great improvement. 2001-02 season was high point, at 858 tagged. About 5,000 acres available.

WABASH - 3

Average harvest of 207 over seven years, with last three doing better. Limited public ground.

WARREN - 3

Slow but steady increases since 1996. High take last year of 236.

WASHINGTON - 4

Other than slight blip in 1997, showing healthy improvement each year. Last season topped out at 438 deer. Some public ground.

WAYNE - 4

Also steady rise with exception of 2000 season. High last year of 745. About 800 acres of public ground, plus disabled opportunities.

WHITE - 2

Expect to take just under 500 deer. No public access.

WHITESIDE - 2

Was showing steady growth but slipped last season to 329 from previous year's 349. Seven-year average is 290. About 2,600 acres of access.

WILL - 4

Broke the roller coaster in 1999 and climbing slowly since. Last season's take was 836 deer; average is 756. Over 7,000 public acres, and opportunities for disabled hunters.

WILLIAMSON - 5

Has stayed within reasonable range of seven-year average harvest of 656. Plenty of access, with 23,000 acres of public land plus the Shawnee NF. Opportunities for disabled hunters.

WINNEBAGO - 2

Best year was 1995 (516), followed by a slump until 1999. Now rising again but still short of previous high. Average harvest is 464.

WOODFORD - 2

Last season's harvest hit 484 after six years of a 392 average. Too soon to tell if it's a fluke. No public ground.



Discover even more in our monthly magazine,

and have it delivered to your door!

Subscribe to Illinois Game & Fish


Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.